Collaborating Authors

Lifelong Learning in Artificial Neural Networks

Communications of the ACM

Columbia University is learning how to build and train self-aware neural networks, systems that can adapt and improve by using internal simulations and knowledge of their own structures. The University of California, Irvine, is studying the dual memory architecture of the hippocampus and cortex to replay relevant memories in the background, allowing the systems to become more adaptable and predictive while retaining previous learning. Tufts University is examining an intercellular regeneration mechanism observed in lower animals such as salamanders to create flexible robots capable of adapting to changes in their environment by altering their structures and functions on the fly. SRI International is developing methods to use environmental signals and their relevant context to represent goals in a fluid way rather than as discrete tasks, enabling AI agents to adapt their behavior on the go.

Homeostatic plasticity in Bayesian spiking networks as Expectation Maximization with posterior constraints

Neural Information Processing Systems

Recent spiking network models of Bayesian inference and unsupervised learning frequently assume either inputs to arrive in a special format or employ complex computations in neuronal activation functions and synaptic plasticity rules. Here we show in a rigorous mathematical treatment how homeostatic processes, which have previously received little attention in this context, can overcome common theoretical limitations and facilitate the neural implementation and performance of existing models. In particular, we show that homeostatic plasticity can be understood as the enforcement of a 'balancing' posterior constraint during probabilistic inference and learning with Expectation Maximization. We link homeostatic dynamics to the theory of variational inference, and show that nontrivial terms, which typically appear during probabilistic inference in a large class of models, drop out. We demonstrate the feasibility of our approach in a spiking Winner-Take-All architecture of Bayesian inference and learning. Finally, we sketch how the mathematical framework can be extended to richer recurrent network architectures. Altogether, our theory provides a novel perspective on the interplay of homeostatic processes and synaptic plasticity in cortical microcircuits, and points to an essential role of homeostasis during inference and learning in spiking networks.

Synaptic Sampling: A Bayesian Approach to Neural Network Plasticity and Rewiring

Neural Information Processing Systems

We reexamine in this article the conceptual and mathematical framework for understanding the organization of plasticity in spiking neural networks. We propose that inherent stochasticity enables synaptic plasticity to carry out probabilistic inference by sampling from a posterior distribution of synaptic parameters. This view provides a viable alternative to existing models that propose convergence of synaptic weights to maximum likelihood parameters. It explains how priors on weight distributions and connection probabilities can be merged optimally with learned experience. In simulations we show that our model for synaptic plasticity allows spiking neural networks to compensate continuously for unforeseen disturbances. Furthermore it provides a normative mathematical framework to better understand the permanent variability and rewiring observed in brain networks.

Social network plasticity decreases disease transmission in a eusocial insect


Animal social networks are shaped by multiple selection pressures, including the need to ensure efficient communication and functioning while simultaneously limiting disease transmission. Social animals could potentially further reduce epidemic risk by altering their social networks in the presence of pathogens, yet there is currently no evidence for such pathogen-triggered responses. We tested this hypothesis experimentally in the ant Lasius niger using a combination of automated tracking, controlled pathogen exposure, transmission quantification, and temporally explicit simulations. Pathogen exposure induced behavioral changes in both exposed ants and their nestmates, which helped contain the disease by reinforcing key transmission-inhibitory properties of the colony's contact network. This suggests that social network plasticity in response to pathogens is an effective strategy for mitigating the effects of disease in social groups.

Analytical Solution of Spike-timing Dependent Plasticity Based on Synaptic Biophysics

Neural Information Processing Systems

Spike timing plasticity (STDP) is a special form of synaptic plasticity where the relative timing of post-and presynaptic activity determines the change of the synaptic weight. On the postsynaptic side, active backpropagating spikesin dendrites seem to play a crucial role in the induction of spike timing dependent plasticity. We argue that postsynaptically the temporal change of the membrane potential determines the weight change. Coming from the presynaptic side induction of STDP is closely related to the activation of NMDA channels. Therefore, we will calculate analytically the change of the synaptic weight by correlating the derivative ofthe membrane potential with the activity of the NMDA channel.